Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act

An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Jean-Pierre Blackburn  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends Part 2 of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act by making the permanent impairment allowance available not only to veterans who are eligible for a disability award under that Act, but also to veterans who are eligible for a disability pension under the Pension Act. It also introduces a supplemental amount to the permanent impairment allowance for the most severely and permanently impaired veterans.
It amends Part 3 of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to provide Canadian Forces members and veterans with a choice of payment options for a disability award.
It also amends the Pension Act by making the exceptional incapacity allowance available not only to veterans and members of the forces who are receiving a disability pension under that Act, but also to veterans and members who are receiving both such a pension and a disability award under the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

June 13th, 2016 / 7:45 p.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Callaghan, you talked a bit about the clawback and Bill C-55. One of the things we heard today in London was how important it is for a veteran to feel that there is purpose in his or her life, and meaningful work. Something they can do well is key, as they did things very well in the service.

Does the clawback that you talked about prevent people from seeking meaningful work? Do they determine it's just not worth it?

June 13th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
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As an Individual

Walter Callaghan

With the clawbacks, there is a slight issue of how SISIP and VAC work on this as well, and what stage of the rehabilitation programs you're at. My understanding, as it is right now, is with the rehabilitation program, so long as you're on it, you're able to make a certain amount of money, up to a certain tier, then it starts getting claw backed. The initial amount is 50¢ on the dollar, then once you hit a certain amount, it's dollar per dollar.

Now, again, one of these issues that does not tend to get talked about is where the reserves fall in with a whole different ball game, a whole different kettle of worms of it being messed up.

Prior to 2012, with Bill C-55 coming in, which changed our deemed salary from $2,000 to $2,700, regardless of the stage of rehabilitation that we were at, we were able to work with an offset of 50¢ on the dollar. That allowed us to make up that gap, because the way the ELB, the earnings loss benefit, and SISIP's long-term disability work is that it's 75% of your salary, or the deemed salary in this case. The way that the 50¢ on the dollar offset worked was that it actually allowed you to make up to that amount, to make up that 25% difference. Then you started getting dollar for dollar docked off.

You could actually get back up to that level, and it was an incentive to go back to work. With the changes that occurred with Bill C-55 in 2012, when they shifted us up from $2,000 to $2,700 as a deemed salary, the way that SISIP turned around and managed this change, and the way that VAC managed this change, the 75% of $2,700 was $2,050. It was more than the previous deemed salary. They turned around and argued. I actually have correspondence from a former minister of Veterans Affairs under the previous Harper government, trying to go, oh no, this is actually what we mean to do. You're losing all of this because, well, your 75% is above the previous deemed salary. This increase that we gave you under Bill C-55, that makes up the difference that you could have actually made, the offset amount.

I don't want to swear. I nearly swore, I'm sorry about that. It did create an adverse situation for me. In it's current iteration, because Bill C-55 only shifted things last year, and I only finally got approved for the increase, the addition of ELB on top of the LTD—that whole confusing thing—I have not had employment income since that came into effect. I've been a Ph.D. student. I do occasionally get the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant. When I previously did that, it was docked dollar for dollar, thanks to the Bill C-55 change. I have not had a TA shift since Bill C-55 occurred, so I don't know yet whether I'm going to be docked dollar for dollar. The indication that I've had, because I'm also no longer on the rehabilitation program, is that I will automatically be docked dollar for dollar.

Did I make a confusing situation more confusing?

May 17th, 2016 / 12:55 p.m.
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Veterans Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

Yes, that's a good point. I think that changing the language will facilitate access, assessment, determination. In fact, the allowance was called the permanent impairment allowance before, and it's now called the career impact allowance; yet, when Bill C-55 introduced this particular benefit, it did say that it was to compensate for the loss of capacity to earn for retirement and to progress in the armed forces through the different rank structures. It has nothing to do really with the impairment per se, but with the ability to earn. I think it's probably a lot easier, too, to interpret a situation in a case management context based on someone's capacity to earn rather than the physical deficiencies of that individual.

May 26th, 2015 / 7:25 p.m.
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Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Bradley K. White

I, too, grew up with veterans. My grandfather was a company commander in Dieppe. He served with Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt, who received the Victoria Cross for his actions in Pourville. I knew Mr. Merritt when I was a young lieutenant, and I listened to his stories, so I know them well.

We all hope that what we're doing here is serving our veterans and making their lives better. That's why we do this. We're not politicians. That's why when we address you, we address you collectively as the government, regardless of what party you belong to.

As was mentioned, Robert Borden said years ago that it's the obligation of the government to look after those they send away to serve. We in the legion believe very much that it's the government's obligation to do that. You are all government to us. So our position is to advocate on behalf of those veterans to make sure that after they've served, they're looked after, to make sure that they have a healthy and productive life after they've been injured. That is our aim.

Is it incremental? Yes, it's incremental. But remember, 2006 and Bill C-55 in 2011 were the first steps to improve and breathe some life into the charter. We now have some more incremental steps in Bill C-58, which have been incorporated into Bill C-59, to do that again. We won't stop pushing. We said that in our statement.

May 26th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
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Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Bradley K. White

I suppose we'll start it off. Thank you for the question.

I'll answer in English.

One of the issues we have is that in 2006, when the new Veterans Charter came in, it came in as a living document. We didn't see any life in the document until 2011, when we had Bill C-55. When it came in it actually put something back into the new Veterans Charter. That was a start.

Bill C-58, now incorporated in this Bill C-59, is another start, we believe, in making the changes necessary to the new Veterans Charter, to make it a document that's alive, that's living, that's meeting the needs of the veterans at this time.

There will be more needs for veterans as we go down into the future. Bill C-59 does not fix all the issues or gaps in the new Veterans Charter right now. It's a start, and we're positive that this start will keep going. We want to see more. The new Veterans Charter has to continue to evolve to meet the needs of the veterans.

Wayne has indicated that PTSD is the tip of the iceberg at this stage of the game. It is the tip of the iceberg. Latent onset of PTSD is going to happen. We have not seen the full extent of what's going to happen with the mental illness problems we have out there on the street right now. We're going to have to take the steps necessary to address those in the future.

May 26th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Veterans Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

No, that's for sure.

Through you, Mr. Chair, I would say two years would probably be timely to my mind. There was a two-year clause in Bill C-55 and it seems to me that it takes a year or so to get things into place, and there are new missions and things like that which may affect the impact on veterans and their families. To me, two years would be a good time to look at that.

However, that doesn't mean the department should not look at it on a daily basis and every time an evolving need is made known. Certainly, as a special adviser to the minister, I can bring things to him as far as what is changing in the veterans community and what is evolving is concerned. Then the department needs to be responsive to that immediately, not wait for.... Always, my concern would be that if you set a specific time, people may wait on the thought that we'll be doing the review in six months. That's not meeting evolving needs, to my mind.

May 26th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Chairman, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada

Brian Forbes

I appreciate that. I would just share our pain in the veterans' community.

In 2006 the Veterans Charter was enacted and we were promised, as a basic veterans stakeholders' group, that this was a living charter and that each year there would be a total review, as we're doing this year in 2015, of the charter to identify those areas where there are voids and inequities. It's the frustration, I think, of 10 years of waiting Mr. Hawn, through you, Mr. Chair. This has finally reached a point where there's an opportunity to get it right, and it is discouraging in a way that we have not yet taken on all of the elements of this new Veterans Charter reform.

That is why I feel it's important that we continue the momentum. It may seem like an insignificant thing to you, but I would suggest that getting the formal commitment of the minister that this momentum will continue, and I know he's made strong statements before this committee and in other places, like the veterans summit, to that effect.

I think it's important, and I give credit to this committee. In 2011, when you passed Bill C-55, you made it a condition that the minister of the day would come back to you, as I recall, within six months, to take a look at the bill to see how effective it was. I would like to suggest you do that with regard to this bill.

May 14th, 2014 / 4:35 p.m.
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Sean Bruyea Retired Captain, Columnist, Media Personality and Academic Researcher, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, for the invitation. You have much on your plate, so I will skip further formalities.

On May 29, 2012, coincidental with the announcement not to appeal the class action lawsuit involving the Canadian Forces insurance plan known as SISIP, the Government of Canada committed to cease offsetting the Pension Act pain and suffering monthly payments from four other plans: the earnings loss benefit, the Canadian Forces income support, the war veterans allowance, and civilian war-related benefits. I will speak specifically about the earnings loss benefit, or ELB.

The ELB is an income loss program and a key pillar of the controversial legislation commonly known as the new Veterans Charter. Bill C-31 provides retroactivity in returning to the veterans the Pension Act pain and suffering deduction offsets of ELB from May 29 to September 2012.

During the launch of the new Veterans Charter, including the earnings loss benefit, on April 6, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised that:Our troops’ commitment and service to Canada entitle them to the very best treatment possible. This Charter is but a first step towards according Canadian veterans the respect and support they deserve.

If the government decided that the policy of offsetting monthly Pension Act payments for ELB is not what our troops deserved on May 29, 2012, did our troops deserve the unfair deductions on May 28, 2012? For that matter, did our troops deserve the unfair deductions for any day back to April 6, 2006, when the earnings loss benefit program was created?

ELB is clearly an income loss program. The Pension Act is indisputably a program for pain and suffering. Our courts have long stipulated that income loss is to be maintained completely separate from general damages, otherwise known as pain and suffering payments. No other provincial civilian workplace insurance program in Canada deducts pain and suffering payments from income loss programs. Why have our disabled veterans and their families been subjected to an unjustifiable lesser standard from April 2006 to May 2012?

Even if we ignore the strong legal precedent of not deducting pain and suffering payments from income loss programs, this arbitrary retroactive date of May 29, 2012, comes across as petty. The indefensible retroactive date creates an additional class of veterans once again. Those in the SISIP class action lawsuit had their problem rectified back to when SISIP began offsetting Pension Act payments. Why are ELB recipients not accorded the same dignity?

Justice, or the appearance of justice being done, is plainly not being offered in Bill C-31. Should you pass the legislation as is, you will force the most disabled veterans under the flagship Conservative veterans benefit program known as the new Veterans Charter to enter the paralytic morass of years of unnecessary and bitter legal battles. These battles will sap the health, the family stability, and the dignity of military veterans and their families.

We say that we honour our injured veterans as a nation and as a government, but Parliament's actions often speak otherwise. Before we hesitate because of cost, please remember that these disabled veterans never hesitated when Parliament ordered them into harm's way, knowing full well that many would die or become disabled for life.

Major Todd, the architect of the Pension Act philosophy of pain and suffering payment, stated in 1919 that Those who give public service do so not for themselves alone but for the society of which they are a part. Therefore, each citizen should share equally in the suffering which war brings to his nation.

This is just one tangible and clear example of the debt we keep promising to pay to our veterans, but we do not

What is also troubling about Bill C-31 is what is absent: the further debts we must pay. The earnings loss benefit is not being increased to 100% of military release salary while providing lost potential career earnings, yet civilian workplace compensation schemes recognize this loss potential. Boosting ELB to 100% has been emphatically pushed by the major veterans groups and the two VAC advisory groups established to study the matter, as well as the House committee on veterans affairs.

There are also no provisions for providing child care and spousal income assistance to the most disabled veterans. The most disabled are not supported for education upgrades or to pursue any employment opportunity to better themselves or improve their esteem. The monthly supplement provided under Bill C-55 in 2011 is denied those seriously disabled veterans collecting the exceptional incapacity allowance under the Pension Act.

My first of now eight parliamentary committee appearances was in front of the Senate version of this committee, the national finance committee, on May 11, 2005. I raised then and continue to raise serious concerns about the charter. My concerns were generally ignored by government, but not by veterans and the public. Had substantive action been taken then, we would not be in year eight of the tragic mess regarding how our veterans are mistreated and often pushed aside by the new Veterans Charter and Veterans Affairs Canada.

I also warned Parliament of the harassment of those who oppose the new Veterans Charter. This was also ignored, only to explode on the national media agenda five years later, with what some call the largest privacy breach in Canadian history—my privacy. As such, provisions such as those in Bill C-31 that would allow CRA to voluntarily hand over confidential taxpayer data to the police without approval of a judge send shivers down my spine, as they should for every Canadian. Surely the magnitude of Bill C-31 is disconcerting. The consequence of ignoring Canadians' and veterans' input is indeed a perilous road.

Undoubtedly, parliamentarians and the public service work hard for democracy. However, none can claim to have sacrificed what our military has sacrificed to preserve our democratic way of life. The omnibus budget bill does not meet Canada's democratic standard. It allows many changes to Canada's laws to enter the back door of government policy without full participatory and democratic due process. Ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada's name and at Parliament's order.

The omnibus budget bill is a perversion of democracy, in my mind, a democracy for which almost 120,000 Canadians have lost their lives and for which hundreds of thousands more have lived and continue to live with lifelong disabilities as a result of serving our nation.

Surely Parliament can do better.

Thank you.

April 8th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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Robert Thibeau President, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones

Mr. Chairman, honourable members of this Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, fellow veterans, ladies, and gentlemen, I acknowledge the fact that we meet here tonight on unceded Algonquin territory and I thank the Algonquin people. I also thank the creator for the opportunity for me to address the concerns of not only aboriginal veterans, but all veterans.

My name is Robert Thibeau. I am the president of the Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones, an organization which represents aboriginals from across Canada, as well as North America. I also represent tonight the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. I received an email today sanctioning what I have to say today and they are in agreement with the majority, if not everything that I have said, especially as it deals with some of the issues that I will speak on. I also by memorandum of understanding with first nations veterans of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations veterans, and the veterans of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples....

This is my second appearance in front of this committee and I must say that once again, it's a privilege to be here and I thank you for that privilege.

Before I speak in regards to the issues on the new Veterans Charter, I believe it is important that I speak on issues surrounding aboriginal veterans. The historical military contributions made by aboriginals since the period of contact are well-documented and certainly have a major impact on how we view Canada today as a free and prosperous country. Aboriginal alliances and their contributions were instrumental in the failure of the Americans to gain any ground occupied inside Upper and Lower Canada during the War of 1812 and contributions after Confederation saw large numbers of aboriginals enlist to fight for Canada in both world wars as well as Korea. These contributions today to Canada continue.

What has not been totally recognized is the discriminatory practices against aboriginals, more so against veterans of first nations, regarding both the Soldier Settlement Act and Veterans’ Land Act, which not only affected the veteran but also impacted the families as well. You may be surprised that both acts did not apply to status Indians unless they enfranchised, in other words relinquished their identity as Indians. Income benefits for spouses of those serving overseas...in a majority of cases did not receive those benefits or they were lowered by the Indian agent. The office of Indian Affairs had made a plea to Veterans Affairs that returning aboriginal veterans should be the responsibility of Indian Affairs and not Veterans Affairs Canada.

What I have just presented to you can be found in a paper authored by Dr. Sheffield entitled, “A Search for Equity.” This paper studied the treatment of first nations veterans and dependants of World Wars I and II, and Korea.

I'd like to read an excerpt from an email I received from one of our veterans after I placed an email regarding my appearance here today. “Thank you for the information hereunder. I am familiar with the new Veterans Charter, having been a member of the Royal Canadian Legion branch 96 for the past 60 years and speaking personally as a WWII war service-related disability pensioner and as a warrior Métis, I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever.”

He is not talking about our new Veterans Charter, he is in fact talking about his treatment when he got out of the war in 1945. The only comparison I might make would be the differences now between the present charter and the post-World War II excellent method of treating World War II veterans. Moreover, that refers to the veterans post-war processing on one zone 1945 discharge and the wonderful benefits derived thereof, namely the war service gratuity and the re-establishment credit.

This statement outlines the discrepancies all too evident in the new Veterans Charter today. There have been significant changes with the charter with respect to aboriginal veterans and how they are treated. The new Veterans Charter is now a hot topic of discussion, which includes all veterans and we are now included in that process. There are some issues which mirror veterans across Canada but there are others which are distinct to aboriginal veterans.

Now I would like to read some excerpts from the Prime Minister's announcement of the new Veterans Charter in 2006:

I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank these men and women for their efforts and to let them know that Canadians are proudly standing behind them and their mission....

In future, when our servicemen and women...leave our military family, they can rest assured the Government will help them and their families' transition to civilian life. Our troops’ commitment and service to Canada entitle them to the very best treatment possible.

Regarding the earnings loss benefit, currently the benefit provides 75% of pre-release salary, terminated at age 65 for a totally and permanently impaired veteran. The Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones and its partners view this as unacceptable. Those who have suffered and are classed as permanently impaired should never be concerned that they will lose any financial stability, especially beyond the age of 65.

In addition, we, along with all our other veterans groups, believe that the ELB should be 100% and continue beyond age 65. As has been said, an appropriate table must be developed in a fair and just manner to ensure veterans with permanent impairments are looked after by a grateful nation. As has also been mentioned, it is the approach utilized by the Canadian courts in assessing the concept of future loss of income specifically addressing the projected lifetime earnings loss in a personal injury claim. So if this is applied to civilian workers who are not deliberately placed in harm's way by their employer, why should this concept not be applied equally as well towards all permanently incapacitated Canadian Armed Forces members?

The ombudsman's report of 2013 addressed the issues of the ELB, and his report is quite thorough. He addressed the PIA and the supplement, and, as noted, the average financial payments to those who qualify. Neither Veterans Affairs Canada nor the ombudsman provides any explanation about the discriminatory factors that mean of the 1,428 totally and permanently incapacitated veterans, only 274 will receive all benefits, some will receive ELB only, and others will receive nothing. There appears to be a wide interpretation of the term “totally and permanently incapacitated”. The disparity in numbers between those who receive both the permanent impairment allowance and supplement and those who do not make the benefits appears to be window dressing.

With regard to reserves, the policy awarding smaller benefits to a reservist is based on the deemed standard monthly salary of a reservist, whatever that amount may be. This policy may provide soldiers for hire on the cheap, but it places a higher value on a regular force soldier involved in the same incident with identical injuries than it does on a reservist. Both regular and reserve force individuals with like injuries will suffer the same incapacitation throughout their lives and should receive the same salary considerations and minimum rates of the recommended table payable to a totally, permanently incapacitated veteran. The charter must be changed to provide equal and appropriate benefits to all totally and permanently incapacitated veterans.

With regard to veterans who are over age 65, some, but not all, disabled veterans will have a CFSA pension benefit and will also have accumulated credits towards their CPP benefit that should enable them to sustain themselves after the age of 65 when ELB benefits are cut off. That is for some.

About 274 totally and permanently incapacitated veterans receive both the permanent impairment allowance and supplement until aged 65. These individuals may or may not be able to prepare themselves for post-65 financial requirements. However, a totally and permanently incapacitated veteran who did not receive the permanent impairment allowance or its supplement and also has a CFSA pension and insufficient credits towards the CPP is placed in a financially precarious position. Once again we strongly argue the case for those permanently impaired veterans and the responsibility of the government and Canadians to honour the social contract that has finally been acknowledged to some extent by the current minister.

The ombudsman has completed a great deal of work in consultation with veterans, and his report should be closely scrutinized.

With regard to the disability award, this benefit is generally misunderstood and is awarded for pain and suffering only. The fact that it can be paid in a lump sum or increments is irrelevant. It must not be seen as an income replacement benefit, because it is not.

The ombudsman has pointed out that the value of the maximum benefit has not kept pace with awards of Canadian courts to civilians who were not placed in harm's way, as were Canadian Armed Forces members. It is unfortunate that this anomaly was not corrected in 2011 with the other amendments of Bill C-55; however, there is no reason why this cannot be done now, and this must be a priority of the government.

It is also our view that the Equitas lawsuit is a negative blemish on this current government. It is our view that this should be withdrawn instead of wasting funds to pay for unnecessary court costs at the expense of those who have sacrificed a great deal for this country, and who also saw Afghanistan as a mission in which we very much had to be involved. Now it's time to step up and look after them in the fairest and most equitable way.

I know I'm going a little over the time. Please bear with me.

Communications to remote and rural communities are concerns that will impact those affected by the recent closures of the Veterans Affairs offices. How do we ensure that information regarding benefits is delivered to our veterans on reserves or those living in remote areas? Remote reserves in B.C. are only one example where, as a result of those office closures, aboriginal veterans, as well as other veterans in northern B.C., will now have to travel upwards of 16 hours to seek information from VAC. I do not believe that Service Canada is an alternative.

We must also consider the Canadian Rangers, who will in all likelihood become clients of Veterans Affairs in the future. As a look ahead, and without the creation of another bureaucracy, we should look at the resources that may be effective and are already there. The army chain of command operates in the remote regions in northern Canada, and therefore they are in direct contact with those soldiers. It may well be possible to utilize military trainers who are attached to those soldiers as a capable resource to deliver and possibly to provide brief presentations on Veterans Affairs and the benefits those soldiers may be entitled to.

For those communities that do not have high-tech computers or communications capabilities—and there are many—maybe we could be using the Canadian Forces recruiters to provide information to veterans as a secondary duty in order to ensure that information makes its way to veterans, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.

With regard to veterans health services, there has been talk in recent years, and now Health Canada and the provincial government of B.C. are in the process of transferring health funding directly to first nations in B.C. The issue here is that we cannot allow the historical negative practices of the past to affect aboriginal veterans and the responsibility that Veterans Affairs has to those veterans. Steps must be taken to ensure that the health problem of an aboriginal veteran does not take any of the money that has been given in a health funding envelope to reserves. To resolve this issue, consultation across Canada must identify veterans who are under Veterans Affairs care and entitled to benefits, or who will be future clients of Veterans Affairs, and must ensure that interdepartmental communications lead to concrete agreements in the interests of veterans and not at the expense of community funding.

Finally, some of our Canadian aboriginal veterans have completed service with the United States armed forces. They have served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Their entitlements and benefits provided are under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or DVA. The problem is that in order to access these benefits they need to be inside U.S. borders. I would ask that efforts be made between VAC and the DVA to work out some form of an agreement that addresses the issue of travel for access to those benefits.

I'm not asking VAC to take over the responsibility, but in consultation with DVA, please see if there's a way we can address that.

The new Veterans Charter, when introduced, was unanimously accepted by all political parties, as well as the military chain of command.

At first glance, it appeared to address the needs of veterans and their families but over the years it was discovered to be deficient in some areas. One can appreciate that nothing is perfect, and the NVC must remain a living and working document.

We must come together as one, both veterans and politicians, to reach a consensus on how best we can look after the needs of those who have sacrificed for this country. Public support for this military and its veterans is at its highest level since the end of the Second World War.

A new generation of Canadians has looked upon our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women with pride and with honour. Veterans deserve to have the government answer, as best it can, the needs of its veterans and not forget the families. While financial compensation is only one part of the issue, health care is also a concern, and we must ensure that those benefits are available.

In addition, the families of those who have deployed around the globe have also suffered from the ghosts of war. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with loved ones who have deployed to areas where human life has not been kind. We must look at these family members as well, and we must reach out and touch the families the same way we're asking you to touch those veterans.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the excellent work that has been completed by our Veterans Ombudsman, as well as recognize the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command for their continued hard work in addressing concerns on behalf of veterans.

History has not necessarily been kind to our aboriginal veterans and their families, but I see hope in the future, hope that as a veterans community, all issues of concern for all veterans of Canada will be equitable and just. I must insist that this committee disregard partisan politics and address veterans issues and concerns with one voice.

I challenge everyone on this committee to look at the issues and not party platforms. All Canadians have acknowledged the sacrifice of all veterans of all conflicts and peace missions of the 20th and 21st centuries.

I thank the chairman and all members of this committee for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the aboriginal veterans, their families, as well as all the other veterans.

Meegwetch, merci, qujannamiik, and all my respect.

April 8th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Founder and National President, Veterans of Canada

Donald Leonardo

It was 300 recommendations to fix the new Veterans Charter.

We were told that this was going to be a living charter. I don't know who the doctor is who is going to give CPR to this charter, if it is living; we've had one change in ten years. You may say it's not ten years, but even if you come out with a bill tomorrow, it is still going to take a year and a half to implement, just as Bill C-55 did, That's one change in ten years—for a living document.

Why is the veteran community so upset? It's because we're sitting here and we have to do study after study, when the studies have already been done. You've spent millions of dollars having veterans come to sit in these committee meetings and talk about the problems in the new Veterans Charter. You've spent millions of dollars going through the problems within the veteran community and discussing how we can support the veteran better. You spent millions of dollars, but we're still not providing support for families or for the wife of an injured veteran when she has to quite her job to look after her husband.

A veteran is losing, even if he gets the earnings loss benefit; he gets a 25% pay deduction, after being injured. I'd like to know which member of Parliament here would take a 25% pay cut, along with all the bureaucrats and all the government employees. They were injured in the line of duty and have to take a 25% pay cut while they go through treatment, rehabilitation, and so on.

I've been through the new Veterans Charter from the start to the end of it. I'm now totally and permanently impaired, so I've gone through the whole charter. I can attest to it. Why should an injured veteran take a 25% pay cut and then his wife have to take a 100% cut while she looks after him?

We need to start listening to these recommendations from veterans organizations such as the stakeholder committee, the Legion-hosted veteran consultation group, and so on.

I support the three priorities that have been said over and over again by the Legion, by the National Council of Veterans Associations, and by the other stakeholders. I support the three priorities that the Veterans Ombudsman has brought forward over and over again.

I think it's time to make a change. We need it done quickly this time.

Recently, when I was told that I was going to come to Ottawa and speak before you....

Actually, before I go on with that, there is one thing that I forgot to mention; Sean just pointed this out.

The other thing is that in 1972, a sergeant who retired from the military got a pension when he turned 60, and it was indexed. He got a pension of about $1000 a month. A sergeant who retired yesterday with the same amount of time and same rank will get $3000 a month. If there is a cost of living or CPI increase every year, why is there such a difference between the sergeant who got out in 1972 and the sergeant who gets out in 2012? Can you tell me why?

The reason is that there were top-ups in the early 1980s and 1990s that topped up the National Defence salaries and left the veterans behind. Increases for the veterans have been under 2% per year. That's why they're falling behind. That's why they can't even afford to go into extended living, because even that costs more with Chartwell Retirement Residences.

We need to increase the amount of money that they get from even their own superannuation, and with the injured veterans we need to ensure that there's normal career progression, because they should not be penalized because they were injured in the line of duty.

As I was saying, I polled the 7,400 members of Veterans of Canada, and the immediate response was that the fact is that everybody is stalled at the gate before they even start the new Veterans Charter. A year and a half ago you had the study on VRAB, but it's time to fix the problem. The solutions that were put forward have not changed a single thing.

This is the entry into the new Veterans Charter, so I have a solution to the problem. I've passed out a handout. The solution is a new way to process and approve injury claims for veterans.

In embarking on the road less travelled, Veterans of Canada has canvassed its more than 7,400 members. The majority of our members want to see a better and fairer system put in place that reduces time and wait periods, a system that is proven and that gives the benefit of the doubt, as the Veterans Ombudsman stated previously.

Over the past several years there have been requests to have more veterans employed within the Government of Canada, even to the point that we have now put forward a bill that I feel is very good—I've been pushing for this for years—which provides for priority hiring for veterans.

Let's now offer some other jobs. Let's start the Bureau of Pensions Advocates up again so that we can hire veterans as claims processors. Making the initial claim is a stumbling block for veterans. They fill out the paperwork, but they never have the right documents, and then it is kicked back and we have a problem, because then they have to go through appeals.

If we went back to the pre-1996 Bureau of Pensions Advocates system and hired some claims processors to be with the Bureau of Pensions Advocates, we could have a checklist that indicates that the medical documents from National Defence are attached, the medical documents from Veterans Affairs are attached, and the medical documents from the civilian doctor are attached. This is an opportunity to have a proper claim submitted so that it can be properly adjudicated, and without haste.

The next thing is to get rid of VRAB and get rid of the current system of adjudicating and bring in an evidence-based system. Right now, with National Defence there is a medical review board, and it has been that way for years. It actually works.

Why not just mirror that National Defence board with Veterans Affairs? Hire ex-doctors and ex-nurses, ex-doctors' assistants, 6A and 6B medical people who served in the military—giving more jobs to veterans within the system—but have them adjudicate, because they're the people who treated us. They know the injuries we've had, they see the records, and they understand the x-rays—they were the ones who were doing this.

The only time they would actually see the claim is if someone had been out of the military for a while. The ones coming over from the military have already been adjudicated by the medical review board, so send it to the Veterans Affairs medical officer and he can sign off on it and just pass it to whoever puts numbers to it from the table of disabilities. This is a simple system.

Next, if they happened to turn down a claim, then the appeal process is this. In the U.S. they've started veterans' courts. And yes, they are for criminal cases, but we can have a veterans' court in each province, and either a retired or a sitting judge could sit in each province. On the appeal, your BPA lawyer sits with you and a Veterans Affairs lawyer sits on the other side and argues the benefit of the doubt, just as in a criminal case, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

This is a fair system, allowing for a judge who has spent his whole career on the bench to weigh the evidence presented and then make a decision. This is an evidence-based system that I am proposing.

Lastly, we now have some research that has been done in Kingston, and there is research that has been done all around the world, on veterans' injuries and problems. If that research team happens to find new information or evidence that shows that some of the claims they had turned down are actually legitimate, then we can have a database—this is the age of technology—so that instead of going through the whole process again, the medical doctor in charge of the Veterans Affairs medical review board will just ask them to take all the similar cases out and approve them because new medical evidence has been shown.

This is a very simple system that I'm putting forward. I think this would make the flow to the new Veterans Charter much quicker instead of having people wait four or five months for the first adjudication. Then it goes to the first appeal for another four, five, or six months. Some of these cases go on for six, eight, ten, or twelve years. Recently I was shown one from 1998. We need to speed this up based on medical evidence. That's the way to go. The consensus in the veteran community is that it would be a better process.

I thank you for letting me come and attend today. I hope I provided some solutions instead of just saying this is bad and that is bad. I hope I have provided you with some thought and some solutions, and I hope we can move forward helping those who are seriously in need of help.

I thank you.

April 3rd, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Melynda Jarratt Historian, Canadian War Brides

Thank you very much.

I am Melynda Jarratt and I am an historian of the Canadian war brides. I've been doing research, writing, and documenting the Canadian war bride experience for more than 25 years. I'm here today to speak about the Veterans Charter because I believe it is important for you as parliamentarians to understand the similarities between the veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War and the modern-day veterans, for although they may seem very different, they are in fact very similar. These are the veterans of the Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia conflicts.

The pain that the World War II veterans suffered and the lessons that they learned about pensions, services, and the support for physical and mental injuries that they suffered, including undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, are things that I sincerely hope are not lost on this committee as it reviews the Veterans Charter and Bill C-55.

I'm particularly interested in the issue of PTSD because it's something that I have heard a lot about in the course of my research. It's not something I really expected to hear, but it keeps on coming up. Whenever I hear about PTSD, I'm immediately brought back to a war bride who I met a very long time ago—one of the very first war brides I met in my research—who told me about the story of her arrival in Canada in 1946. Her husband had served in England first, and then he was sent over to the Normandy landings, Belgium, Holland, and then into Germany. His service was fraught with unspeakable horrors that no human should have to see or expect to live through, yet he did. He survived and he was shipped back to Canada.

He was given a prescription for his nerves and expected to return to civilian life, to a job and to his family who were soon coming over; the war bride was coming over with her little baby. Within a year he was dead. He killed himself as the pressure was too much for him. He committed suicide, leaving her a widow with a small child and with no skills really. At that time it was traditional that women did not work. There was no social support system. There was no social welfare system here in Canada at that time. She had no family so she returned to Britain. Here was a family devastated by the legacy of war. His pain was over but hers was just beginning.

She's one of many, many women and children who I have met in the course of the last 25 years as I have worked on the issue of Canadian war brides.

Other Canadian veterans of the Second World War, their wives, and their families suffered in silence with undiagnosed PTSD for years. It was not clinically recognized. I know you've heard this before. So what ended up happening is when you had a problem, they'd ship you off to the psychiatrist, say for example at Lancaster Hospital in Saint John, which was for veterans. They gave you a prescription and sent you back home where you immediately went to the Legion or out in the woods with your buddies and spent a lot of time drinking to dull the pain. It was an all too familiar story for many children of Canadian veterans whose alcoholic fathers spent more time at the Legion with their army buddies than they did at home with their families.

Another war bride tells me of the day her husband arrived from overseas in their tiny village in northern New Brunswick in June 1945. She had arrived about a year before him on an earlier draft of war brides in 1944. She landed in this little town with her 18-month-old daughter, and they happily anticipated the return of her husband, who had been awarded a military medal for bravery; he had saved a comrade in Italy. He had gone on after Italy to Holland and through to Germany until the end of the war and came back. He was a wreck. Of course she didn't know that because she was in Canada, so they happily anticipated the day of his return.

Well, on the day of his return in June 1945, they went to the bus stop to wait for him and he never showed up. Two days later he arrived drunk, dishevelled, and abusive. That was basically the rest of her life in Canada. She's still alive now; she is 92 years old. His drinking continued and worsened. He wasn't the same man that she had met in England and fallen in love with.

He lost his job. He had nightmares, kicking his legs at night. They couldn't sleep together anymore. He was always kicking her and hitting her, screaming, fighting with his friends at the Legion, where he'd get drunk and then get kicked out. He finally got a part-time job working in the woods, and he found peace in the woods. That was the place he really loved, but he never had a full-time job. She had to go to work. He never killed himself either, but he put his family through hell. The wounds went down through the family, through the generations, to her daughter and then their grandchildren.

I could go on and on with cases like this from World War II.

Another fellow, a World War II veteran, in an alcoholic rage threatened to kill all his children with a shotgun. He chased them down a rural road outside of Fredericton, taking potshots at them. He physically abused his wife. He pushed her down when she was seven months pregnant. He knocked out her front teeth. He kicked her in the stomach. He caused her to go into premature labour. I met one of the babies who survived that kicking. She cried, and I cried too, because it was a terrible story.

I also heard of wives who hid from their husbands at their friends' homes, their black eyes covered with glasses and makeup. I heard of wives who left with the children, eking out an existence in poverty in New Brunswick, or who left to go back to Britain, Holland, or France, all of the different countries where the war brides came from, because they just could not stand the abuse.

These are memories that die very, very hard. In fact, they don't die; they live on in the minds of the people who were affected by it.

I am here today to tell you that 75 years after the declaration of the Second World War, which we are commemorating with great fanfare, there are thousands of Canadians whose World War II fathers suffered from undiagnosed PTSD and put their families through hell. These children are still suffering from it. This is quantifiable pain with quantifiable suffering. It can be measured. It is not a fairy tale or an excuse for bad behaviour. It is real, and it is caused by the horrors of the Second World War.

This brings me to today's veterans of the Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia conflicts. I live in Fredericton, next door to Canada's largest military training base in Gagetown. Soldiers have been part of the life of Fredericton for nearly 200 years, and I dare say more than 200 years. I see soldiers in uniform in the city all the time, but it's the ones I don't see who I worry about, the ones who have disappeared into poverty, who have turned to drugs and alcohol, and who have, worse, killed themselves, leaving a crushing void behind.

There have been several suicides recently of New Brunswick soldiers. Every time I hear about another soldier who has killed themselves, I think of the war brides. I wonder what they think when they read these articles in the newspaper or listen to the television and hear about these suicide stories. I wonder how these women managed with so much suffering in their lives for 30, 40, 50, 60 years. Granted, it was a different time, with a different way of thinking. There were the traditional values and attitudes towards marriage: you made your bed, you had to lie in it; divorce was unacceptable; and marriage was forever, the phrase I often heard.

Today's wives are different. They have a modern way of thinking about relationships. Divorce is not so unthinkable today. They have the Internet, which allows them to explore the resources they have available. There's a social safety net for them. There are also social support services, transition houses where they can go to for their safety, which the war brides of World War II did not have. Our society no longer turns a blind eye to that kind of abuse, shushing it up like they used to.

Most importantly, with all the suicides there has been a greater focus on the causes of PTSD. Canadians have a greater understanding of the issues. Talk to anybody on the streets—anybody—and you will hear a lot of sympathy for today's veterans. Canadians have connected the dots between modern soldiers' service in conflict zones and the combat injuries such as PTSD. It may be too late for those veterans of World War II and the Korean War, but it is not too late for today's veterans. They need our support, and so do their wives and their children.

Canadian soldiers of the Second World War didn't have everything they needed, especially when it came to undiagnosed PTSD, but they had one thing they could count on and that was a pension. One 91-year-old war bride whose late husband served overseas for nearly six years, from December 1939—so that meant he was with the first troops who landed on December 17, 1939—to June 1945, two of those years as a prisoner of war in Germany, and who suffered undiagnosed PTSD their entire married life, told me the other day that she didn't really have anything to complain about in terms of money, and she felt that she was well taken care of. She did have this to say, and, let me tell you, the wisdom of these old ladies just never fails to amaze me. She said a widow is only as good as her husband's pension, which is precisely the problem.

She has his pension. It is guaranteed.

She has the VIP, of course, and help with assisted devices such as walkers or chairs, and even an adapted potato peeler if she needs it, because many years ago, she applied for and received assistance as a British veteran, when this was offered to Canadian war brides and apparently to males as well who were British veterans. You could get the same types of services that Canadian veterans were getting, not a pension per se but VIP services. So she gets those things. Meanwhile, she has a friend down the street who's also a war bride, who also served in World War II in Kenley. She's a 92-year-old war bride. She's a veteran of the British WAAFs. She survived the bombing of the Kenley air force base in Britain in 1941, during the Battle of Britain. She did not apply for those services before they cut them off, and consequently she does not get them.

These two women live in the same area. One gets perks and the other doesn't. That's not fair, if you ask me. I am sure there are hundreds of other people just like them. It's an example to me of the inequality that is rife across the system because of arbitrary deadlines and decisions that are made in offices by faceless bureaucrats and politicians who have no idea how their actions affect the quality of people's lives. As was the case with the Veterans Charter, decisions affecting the quality of people's lives have been made. I agree with the testimony that has been given here as recently as last week by Canadian veterans advocate Michael Blais, who said that Canadian soldiers, their wives, and their children should have a choice as to whether they want a lump sum payment or a pension.

These war brides,who are 91, 89, 92, or 93 years old, most of them having outlived their husbands, are living proof that these benefits they receive, uneven as they may be, give them a quality of life that others do not have. They can live independently in their homes. They can get a little bit of help with their housekeeping or snow shovelling or lawn mowing. It's the kind of assistance that improves the quality of their lives. That new generation we're talking about, the modern-day veterans, are young and they have their life ahead of them, and I suppose that's what worries the government. It's thinking, “Oh, my God. Look, we have another 75 years ahead of us with these people.”

My war bride friend and her husband, who was captured in Sicily and who served two years in a prisoner of war camp, were also young 75 years ago. They had a life ahead of them. They were promised a sacred trust. It is an obligation. What is so different between a human being who gave their youth and their life for their country 75 years ago and the young men and women who are coming up through the Canadian military today? I see no difference whatsoever. The sacred trust cannot be broken. If it is broken, then all the stickers and the buttons and the flag-waving and the mantra about save our troops is meaningless pablum.

If you disagree with supporting our troops, then somehow you are unpatriotic, and you in fact may even be considered treasonous. However, if you talk to some of these people today who have been speaking before you about the treatment they've been receiving, they do feel they have been abandoned. They do not feel that the government supports our troops. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn't always done what was right, and they should be admonished for it.

I recall a story told to me by the daughter of a Japanese prisoner of war who, after having survived the torture, the barbarity, and the malnutrition of four years as a prisoner of war came back to Canada to be reunited with his war bride. The only job he could get—because he had no education and he was just a private when he was captured in Hong Kong—was as an orderly in a mental hospital in Saint John, New Brunswick. That was a tough job for a prisoner of war coming back from four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He was on his feet a lot in the hospital, and he had trouble walking.

That suffering was the result of his torturers taking glee in beating him on the soles of his feet. When he applied for orthotic inserts, he was told that it was not connected to his war service. He was furious. He went into a ballistic rage at the DVA office in Saint John. He could not believe that they would deny him this measly assistance.

He never got his orthotics. It changed him, his daughter told me. He lost faith.

The family suffered because of his father's service. It's an insult that rings loud and clear all the way through to the third generation of that man's family. Talk about Veterans Affairs and that's the story you're going to hear about 75 years after the beginning of the Second World War, about how badly he was treated. They don't have fond memories of their father's treatment by the DVA. When his daughter tells that story I cry, because she cries. It's a terrible thing to hear.

I don't want to cry anymore with veterans' wives and children. I beg of you to do the right thing for veterans and widows and give them a choice as to whether they want the lump sum payment or a pension. It is the right thing to do, and it will restore Canadians' faith in the sacred trust between veterans and government. It is, as Senator Dallaire said, “a philosophical framework”, a set of values that will guide how we deal with veterans over the next 75 years.

Thank you very much.

April 3rd, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

National President, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association

Ray Kokkonen

Mr. Chair, members of this vital committee, good afternoon. Thank you for this opportunity to present to you the views of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, or CPVA for short, on the enhanced new Veterans Charter. With me, of course, is Joseph Gollner, our patron.

The CPVA, founded in 1991, is a national all-veteran, all-volunteer, not-for-profit apolitical organization with chapters from Vancouver Island to St. John's, Newfoundland. We receive no public funding. Our mission statement is to be a strong and leading advocate for all veterans and to provide a forum of comradeship for veterans. Our association is open to all veterans. Its membership includes World War II, Korean War, peacekeeping, NATO, Balkan, and Afghanistan campaigns, and RCMP, civilian police, and other veterans, with some international members.

The CPVA has been instrumental in such veterans issues as the start-up of the 1-800 VAC assistance line, the creation of the position of the Veterans Ombudsman, the initiation of the August 9 National Peacekeepers' Day, and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal. CPVA also was active in the workup of the NVC, the Veterans Bill of Rights, and the development of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. Our members have served on numerous committees related to the NVC and other VAC committees.

One fundamental issue sets veterans in a unique place in Canadian society. They have served their country under the unlimited liability clause that commits them, if necessary, to lay down their lives as the ultimate sacrifice. They have served under a legal obligation to obey all lawful commands, regardless of consequence to themselves. The significance of this commitment and obligation is something that most Canadian citizens do not fully comprehend.

In return for their service, Canada has a duty to provide adequate and appropriate care for its wounded, injured, and sick veterans and their families so that they can live out their lives with dignity. VAC is the vehicle by which Canada meets it duty to veterans. By and large the department does a reasonable job, although it is seldom given credit for doing so. To that end, CPVA has had an awards program for several years at both national and regional levels to recognize outstanding VAC employees and/or their offices. The last recipient of our award was the Veterans Ombudsman and his staff.

We recognize that you have received numerous presentations from other veterans organizations. For that reason, our intention today is to focus on reinforcing the key or core issues only. In essence, as a member of the veterans consultation group of 20 veterans organizations, the CPVA fully agrees with and strongly supports the three priority issues about the NVC identified by the veterans consultation group. Those priorities were unanimously accepted by the group and were made known to the Minister of Veterans Affairs in May 2013 and October 2013.

The priority issues are as follows: the earnings loss benefit must be improved to provide 100% of pre-release income and be continued for life; the maximum disability award must be increased consistent with what is provided to injured civilian workers who received general damages in law court; and the current inequity with regard to the earnings loss benefit for class A and class B, which is less than 180 days' service, for reserve force members for service-attributable injuries must cease.

Although these are the clearly identified priority issues, as they impact on our most severely wounded, the CPVA has numerous other concerns with the NVC. CPVA had serious doubts leading up to the enactment of the NVC given its content and its shift to an insurance-based philosophy. We have made our concerns known over both the speedy passage of the NVC and the attendant lack of the usual parliamentary scrutiny during its passage.

Canadians, and especially the veterans community, were assured that the NVC is a living charter. This assurance, often repeated, led us to believe that the deficiencies of the charter would be addressed in a timely manner. Regrettably, our confidence was misplaced, because except for the passage of Bill C-55 in 2010, the many deficiencies in the NVC identified by this committee, the Veterans Ombudsman, various VAC advisory committees, and numerous veterans organizations still remain unresolved.

The three priority corrections to the NVC are the most important elements of progress toward an acceptable level of benefits for our most seriously injured veterans. However, there are related matters that need addressing as well. I have three of those, and I will detail them.

First, this is about the social covenant. In the NVC, the Government of Canada needs to clearly reaffirm to the public and to its veterans that it has a duty to its veterans and their families to look after their needs, with special emphasis on those who have been seriously injured as a result of their service.

Second, to make the NVC a truly living charter, a legislative process involving regular critical reviews of the NVC is required, reviews done with the goal of initiating necessary and timely changes to the NVC as and when required.

Third, much of the confusion, frustration, and animosity surrounding the NVC in the veterans community is caused by veterans not understanding the charter, with its often complicated regulations and attendant policies. It is incumbent on VAC to provide information about the NVC to veterans and their families in a form and with content that they can understand.

Three primary issues in the NVC need immediate corrective action in order to allow our most seriously wounded and injured veterans to live with dignity. The need to correct the ELB, the maximum disability award, and the inequity to injured reservists has been reinforced here today. It is clear from presentations made by most of the veterans organizations that the concerns expressed here today by the CPVA have a real consensus in the veterans community. With such strong collective agreement among veterans about these priorities, we strongly urge this committee, VAC, and the government to heed our call to action.

As well, the three related matters—Canada's duty to its veterans, the living charter, and understandable information about the NVC—cannot be ignored, as they are the basis for the operation of the charter and for ensuring it remains relevant.

The CPVA calls upon this committee, with its mandate, proven competency, and genuine concern for the welfare of Canada's veterans, to vigorously pursue the necessary steps required to bring about the essential changes to the NVC, changes that will allow Canada to fully meet its duty to treat our injured veterans fairly and to enable them to live with the dignity which they so richly deserve and which they have earned.

The CPVA is grateful for this opportunity to present its views on the NVC to this committee. We thank and commend this committee for all of its caring, dedicated, responsible, and extremely important and valuable work on behalf of veterans.

Thank you.

April 3rd, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Quebec, Lib.

Senator Roméo Dallaire

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, of this committee of enormous significance to so many people. Thank you for having the patience of inviting an older vet, a retired general who is busy at times on the other side of this Hill.

I am here very much to speak as a veteran, as a retired general officer, and a bit in my duties as a senator.

In so doing if I may I wish to give a bit of history. I'll go a little further than CNN history, though—which is last week—and then bring you into certain points that I would like to raise. Hopefully I will not overstep the bounds of how long I should speak, although brevity is not the strength of retired generals, so I'll work on that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am appearing before you as a veteran to raise some issues surrounding the New Veterans Charter. I will provide you with some background and also put into perspective this charter you are studying in detail.

I congratulate you for undertaking this study and for taking the time to hear from many witnesses. When he appeared before your committee, the minister instructed you, I think, not to go on the ground, not to meet with veterans and their families in their communities. That decision should have perhaps been reconsidered, although we are often told that this type of initiative is expensive and time consuming.

As they say, once a veteran, always a veteran. For us, this is not a matter of time—on the contrary. It is a matter of having our needs met.

I would like to give this brief intro in the sense of telling you about this charter and some of its genesis. I know in reading the blues that General Semianiw gave you an extensive presentation on how it came about.

I wish only to bring out a couple of points on its genesis. The first point is that the charter did not appear because all of a sudden a bunch of bureaucrats decided that it was a way of solving a problem. The charter came about because of a fundamental need that was articulated by a multidisciplinary committee created originally by Admiral Murray, who was a deputy minister at the turn of the century, about 2000; and under the chairmanship of Dr. Neary, who wrote an extensive book on the 1943 original charter.

The multidisciplinary committee was advising the deputy minister and of course by extension, the minister, on the problematics of trying to apply the new Pension Act to a new generation of veterans. In so doing there were problems in its application, but also problems in being able to meet the demands of these young people versus the octogenarians whom the department had been more focused on.

So we were looking at a radical shifting of a government department into an area that they hadn't touched since 1940, 1950, where at that time the bulk of the veterans were 18, 19, 20, 23-year-olds, and of that age. That in itself was a significant trauma.

So that multidisciplinary team from different government departments, of different players, and also stakeholders provided significant input and produced the report called the Neary report in March of 2004.

I was able to participate in that as the representative of the ex-Canadian Forces veterans as we were articulating the gang since the end of the Cold War, and with Dr. Neary presented it here in this building in March of 2004 for consumption by the department, by veterans, and in support of reform.

The result of that was not necessarily what the Neary report was providing but was a sort of amalgam, a mixture of both some of the elements of the Neary report and extensive internal reviews and reorganizations being done by the department itself as it tried to cope with the problems and was looking at how to handle this influx since the early 1990s of a new generation of veterans.

What ended up, of course, is this bill. I am the one who squired it through the Senate, Bill C-45. I was three weeks on the job, but that was longer than the amount of time we spent studying it, which was 24 hours, and in so doing, the charter is an essential document of our time but it had a very significant caveat to it. It had to be a living document because we knew that we didn't have all the parameters of what the needs of the new generation of veterans would require, and also the needs of their families, which was instrumental in the argumentation behind the Neary report. You were not just now deploying members of the forces, you were essentially deploying their families also.

A quick anecdote is when I came back from Rwanda 20 years ago, my mother-in-law, who was still alive at the time, said she would have never survived World War II if she had had to go through what my family went through. My father-in-law commanded an infantry regiment in World War II. The whole country was at war. Information technology was very limited, but also censorship kept people pretty well away and separated from the actual war, from the conflict area, and so they knew very little.

However, with the revolution of communications that's been going on, and the ability of getting real-time reports, what we see now is the families continuously clicking on different channels as they are looking for what channel is going to report first who has been killed, injured, taken prisoner, or whatever, and so by the time we come back from those missions, we see a family who has also lived the missions. The families are now living the missions with the members. It is not a separated exercise. It is a marriage.

It's a communion between the two, and so any policy that doesn't reflect that communion is a policy that will have a fundamental flaw in it, and the fundamental flaw is you can't help the member and let the families be taken care of by somebody else, by another body, and hopefully they might even have a priority in their support. That dimension, which was supposed to be intrinsic in what we were hoping the legislation would be, is not there. You have a hard time finding “family” in this legislation.

However, with the legislation, it did give the government that came into power in January 2006 the ability to implement a whole new generation of tools that it felt was going to meet the requirement as per what the legislation was calling for. Just as a side point, both Dr. Neary and I were brought into P.E.I. three months before the legislation was presented, and we were informed about a series of recommendations on how the legislation would be changing things.

A number of those had absolutely nothing to do with what we had done before. The lump sum solution was never, ever raised in all the deliberations of the multidisciplinary committee that was advising the deputy minister, and there were a number of these things that were thrown in there that caught us by surprise, but we never got a chance to amend, to debate, to discuss, because it was too far down the road, and so it was simply implemented, but the caveat, which I come back to, was that it is a living document and the minister would be able to work with it.

Over the last years, we have seen one major intervention, which is Bill C-55.

I say “major” because it's the only one in significance as legislation—but it is not major, it's sort of that big to the demand. Even in that, there were elements of the legislation that the minister could have, by convincing his Treasury Board colleagues, implemented without having to go to legislation. But there are a few elements of legislation, which is the second component that I wish to mention about this charter.

We had recommended strongly that this charter has got to give power to the minister to amend the programs, to amend the directives, to not be hamstrung by enormous scales and volumes of regulations that require legislation. The aim was, as a living document, to give that minister, as long as he convinced his buddies at Treasury Board for the financial requirement and it was not offending any other act, the ability to get in there and change things in order to meet in a timely fashion the demands of the troops and their families. This legislation does not give him or her that much leeway. On the contrary, due to the scale of regulations in there, it is quite restrictive on the minister, which makes it very difficult for him or her to be able to bring about some of the changes that many committees have proposed.

You are aware that over five committees subsequently sat and hundreds of recommendations were produced. In fact, your committee, if I'm not mistaken, about a year and a half ago, if not two, looked at PTSD, or the mental health, and punched out a whole whack of these recommendations. These recommendations coming from these committees were essentially single-focused. Very few if any of those recommendations ever made it into the staffing of the bureaucracy, I'm afraid. In fact, the five leads of these committees never got a real response from the department as to their final recommendations as such. It was sort of given and then left there.

All this is to say that I'm trying to give a more strategic perspective to this document—and I am speaking here, I gather you picked up, not on the nuts and bolts of so many of the different programs and projects and directives. My strategic perspective is the fact that we absolutely need this charter amended. Not a new one, and not necessarily the Pension Act, but a charter that meets the requirement, as the requirement has evolved over the years, remembering, ladies and gentlemen, that we're covering now 25 years, 25 years more than since 2005, when it was brought in.... The whole new era of veterans started with the end of the Cold War and with the Gulf War. The Gulf War syndrome, and how we treated those people, is the perfect example of why we need a whole new set of tools as we really did not help those people. There are still walking wounded out there.

We're covering not Afghanistan alone. That's the culminating point of the last 25 years, in which the forces have been in the field, in operational theatres, hoping to come home on occasion to lick their wounds. We need that legislation to cover the full spectrum and to take care now of those forces that are back in garrison and are licking their wounds. In so doing, the scale of demand will continue to increase, not decrease—increase. The veterans of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and Somalia are hitting their 60s and 65s and 70s. There is no long-term care significantly in the new charter, so you've got to cover the full spectrum. The covenant, which we proposed in 2004, said, “We inculcate loyalty into you, that uniform comes off, but that loyalty remains for a lifetime, for we have changed you culturally, and in so doing have a responsibility thereof”.

I have spoken already too long, and I didn't want to get into nuts and bolts, but I'm more than prepared to respond as best I can, Mr. Chair, to whatever questions you may have.

Former Canadian Forces Members ActPrivate Members' Business

April 2nd, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
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Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-568, which was introduced by my colleague from Saint-Jean. I thank him for his excellent initiative.

This bill would ensure that all members of the Canadian Forces who were honourably discharged have access to long-term health care. My colleague has touched on an important topic with this bill.

Before I discuss the bill directly, I want to talk about some of the comments made by our colleagues on the government side. They are attacking the opposition, as did the parliamentary secretary. They said that we had a shameful record when it comes to veterans.

I think the government is projecting because its own record is shameful. The government has a dismal record when it comes to veterans, who do not receive proper treatment. The department's dismal record is a very long list. Not too long ago, departmental officials lashed out at veterans, which shows a complete lack of class. In my opinion, the government and several of its members have been arrogant. The list is very long.

Just recently, my colleague said that the government has invested $5 billion since 2006. That is government propaganda, because only $3.5 billion has been spent. The $5 billion amount was what was budgeted. It takes some nerve to not spend the money on our veterans and to claim that an additional $5 billion was spent, which is not true. The government is trying to balance the budget at the expense of our veterans. That is the government's record and veterans know better.

I would now like to get back to the excellent bill introduced by my colleague from Saint-Jean. As I mentioned, the government is off-loading its responsibilities towards veterans, for example, by wanting to close the last veterans' hospital, Ste. Anne's Hospital. The hospital will be transferred to the Province of Quebec by the end of 2014, provided there are no additional delays. The government is going to close the last hospital dedicated to long-term health care for veterans. That makes absolutely no sense.

Only veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War have access to long-term care. My colleague's bill would lift that restriction and give all veterans access to long-term care, no matter what war they participated in. Their service was no different from that of the veterans who fought in other wars. They deserve the same treatment.

Currently, Canadian Forces members only have access to beds in community facilities. Those beds are not specifically set aside or funded for veterans. Placement in the facility is based on health needs, as is the case for any other individual. Veterans' names are placed on the standard waiting list. Veterans Affairs Canada pays the bill once the veteran is given a spot.

Modern-day veterans have access to that type of bed, which unfortunately does not give them priority. Veterans Affairs Canada also provides reserved beds, but Canadian Forces veterans are not considered eligible, as it stands. My colleague's bill, Bill C-568, is designed to change that.

The government needs to admit that it has a responsibility and moral obligation to our veterans. Despite the fact that the government does not want to own up to that moral obligation, it still exists. The government has a legal obligation to take care of veterans, but the government is denying that obligation, which is completely appalling. That is the government's record. It does not acknowledge that it has a moral obligation to take care of veterans.

In my opinion, the respect that the government has for veterans is measured by the quality of services it provides to them. Our veterans deserve better. They do not deserve budget and service cuts like the ones they have been experiencing since 2012. The government is balancing the budget on the backs of veterans.

That year, government cuts totalled more than $250 million. Our veterans deserve to be treated with dignity. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

The government must fund long-term health care for modern-day veterans, as it did for those who served before 1953. It is about time that the government act on the Ombudsman's report entitled “Veterans' Long-Term Care Needs”.

Since 2006, our veterans have suffered the consequences of the Conservative government's lack of action and poor policies. The new veterans charter was passed in 2006 with the promise that it would be a living document and that it would be amended as problems emerged. However, the government has done absolutely nothing on that file.

The new veterans charter was amended only once, in 2011, by means of Bill C-55. Unfortunately, it only fixed a tiny fraction of the problems, which have been pointed out dozens of times in ombudsman reports and committee studies. The government has shirked its responsibilities by not making any changes, which is deplorable. That is part of the government's abysmal record on how it treats veterans. As I mentioned, the parliamentary secretary is projecting his own dismal record.

In 2012, the Conservatives used their majority to initiate a wave of cuts. They cut the Veterans Affairs Canada budget by $200 million thereby eliminating 800 jobs, not including the jobs that will be lost at Ste. Anne's Hospital when it is transferred to the province.

The government said that veterans would not see a reduction in service, which is not true. In fact, veterans are having more and more difficulty accessing the services they are entitled to. In short, the government did away with more than half of the jobs at Veterans Affairs Canada. The closure of nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices on January 31 only adds to this wave of cuts and reduced services for our veterans and, of course, to the government's pathetic track record in this regard.

Our veterans also need support. How can the government think that making $225 million in cuts will not result in reduced services? Veterans do not agree with what the government is doing, as evidenced by a study on the new veterans charter. Veterans want this government to take action. It is shameful that the government is once again turning its back on veterans by opposing this important bill introduced by my colleague from Saint-Jean.

The minister is talking out of both sides of his mouth. We saw this with the class action lawsuit filed by Equitas. He recently—and reluctantly—acknowledged the social pact that exists between the federal government and veterans. Unfortunately, however, he has shown no leadership on this. In the Equitas case, he should have told the prosecutor not to deny the existence of this social contract, but that is not at all what he did. He denied the existence of that social contract a few times, until he finally reluctantly acknowledged it recently. This complete lack of leadership is just one more example of this government's abysmal record in terms of how it treats our veterans.

In his report on veterans' long-term care, the ombudsman stated:

The very existence of so many...eligibility categories and the associated challenges entailed in establishing a veteran's eligibility...has been and remains a source of contention for both clients and...employees of Veterans Affairs Canada.

There is therefore a real need in the area of long-term health care. I am calling on my colleagues in the governing party to vote in favour of this important bill in order to support our modern-day veterans who have a right to access long-term health care.

April 1st, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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Chairman, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada

Brian Forbes

I'll try not to take up the entire six minutes but within the NCVA organization we have what is called a legislative agenda. Obviously Mr. Henderson who is vice-chair is very familiar with this. In all the years I've been with the NCVA and the years that Mr. Chadderton was the chairman—I've been the chairman for the last five years—we've had a legislative agenda at our annual meeting, which is brought forward to all our membership. It's based on the input we get from the membership through the year and we adopt that legislative agenda. Of what I presented today 95% was sourced from that legislative agenda. All our member organizations had an opportunity to speak to it at our annual meeting, to amend it, and at the end of the day, adopt it. That is how the NCVA operates.

We have 60 member organizations; we have about 85% attendance at our meetings, which we're quite proud of. We have a very comprehensive protocol as far as our legislative agenda.

As far as prioritization, I must say, first of all I would share again the view that as a veterans consulting group you are probably familiar with the fact that we meet regularly. There are 20 organizations, we're one of them, the other two groups here are part of that group. We meet at the Legion, the Legion hosts the meetings, and we come together and create priorities.

I'm going to say something that is a little different today, which is we have been pursuing three priority issues, which Deanna identified in her submission earlier and I have touched on in my submission. We identified those two years ago. The reason I want to speak to this is that at that point the government was going through an economic recession. The government reaction to a lot of our proposals was that they didn't have the budget for that, they couldn't do that, they had to deal with the budget of the day, the economic crisis of the day. We cooperated to some degree. We limited our priorities to those three. We asked if they could at least do these three right away. We've waited for two years. We've not seen anything come from those three recommendations.

So when I brought my recommendations here today—and I have about 10 on my list if you're counting—it's a new world today. In 2015 we're facing a government that says they're going to have a budget surplus, hopefully the budget will be balanced in 2014. It's a different world. We'd like to get the charter right. We're a little tired of the one-off solutions of Bill C-55. Bill C-55. was an attempt to at least give the veterans a little something to placate them. It wasn't nearly sufficient. It didn't nearly address the proposals that were on the table. The Legion groups do have priorities, we do support them, but I would like to think your committee would go beyond that. I'd like to get this right. Let's get the charter right. We've had eight years to do it, let's get it right and stop doing incremental changes. That's my view on your questions.

Thank you.